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Females have once again flexed their might at the box office, delivering a $132.5 million worldwide debut for Kenneth Branagh‘s princess tale Cinderella, including an estimated $70.1 million domestically from 3,845 theaters and a record-breaking $25 million in China.
Cinderella — Branagh’s biggest opening of all time as a director — marks another key win for Disney as it spins its classic animated tales into live-action offerings. Its last effort, Maleficent, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the famous villainess, stunned with a $758.4 global gross, thanks in no small measure to star Angelina Jolie.
The fact that Cinderella appears to have bested Maleficent‘s $69.4 million domestic debut to nab one of the best showings ever for the month of March is all the more impressive considering its leading lady, Downton Abbey‘s Lily James, isn’t a known quantity. Nor is Cinderella in 3D, as was Maleficent.
Several rival Hollywood studios have Cinderella — also starring Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and Richard Madden — opening lower than $70 million. The discrepancy won’t be resolved until Monday when final numbers are tallied but it is a big win either way for the $95 million film.
Overseas, Cinderella launched in 60 percent of the international marketplace, grossing $62.4 million (it has a number of major territories yet to open). In China, it is the highest March opening of all time despite not being in 3D. And Russia, another big 3D market, was equally impressive with $7.3 million.
In North America, Cinderella earned an A CinemaScore. On Friday, 77 percent of the audience was female but that shifted to 66 percent on Saturday and Sunday, indicating that dads, boyfriends and husbands turned out in force. Overall, families made up 66 percent of the audience, followed by adults (26 percent) and teens (8 percent). And a full 31 percent of those showing up were under the age of 12. On the other end of the spectrum, 9 percent were 50 and older.
Cinderella marks the No. 6 March opening of all time, not accounting for inflation, and Disney’s third-best for the month after Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) and Oz the Great and Powerful ($79.1 million). Branagh’s previous best was Thor ($65.7 million).
“The challenge in marketing the movie was that there was no twist, unlike Maleficent or Oz,” says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. “We were rolling out the quintessential version of the classic story. The danger was that people could say, ‘I already know what the story is,’ but the marketing team brought to the market creative materials that did an incredible job of creating a sense of urgency.”
Cinderella‘s theater count included 358 Imax locations in North America, which delivered up $5 million. Internationally, Imax houses turned in $4 million for a total $9 million.
Sweetening the pot, Disney played its new Frozen Fever short in front of the film Cinderella (on the eve of the Cinderella launch, the studio officially announced it is moving ahead with Frozen 2).
Disney celebrated a second victory over the weekend as the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6 became the top-grossing animated release of 2014 ahead of How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($618.9 million) thanks to a late run in China and other key international markets. Through Sunday, Big Hero‘s global tally is $632.8 million, including $75.8 million in Japan and $66.5 million in China, where it has become the No. 1 non-seqeul animated film of all time after 16 days of release, and the No. 3 animated title of all time.
Moviegoing has plummeted in recent weeks in North America but Cinderella heralded a turnaround, with revenue up more than 16 percent over the same weekend last year.
However, the weekend’s other new offering, Liam Neeson‘s Run All Night, could have used some fairy dust of its own. The $50 million movie opened to $11 million from 3,171 theaters, Neeson’s worst showing since he became a leading older action star (The Next Three Days launched to $6.5 million in 2012, but he only had a supporting role).
In January, Neeson’s Taken 3, debuted to $39.2 million (the film marked the final title in the popular franchise). His film before that, A Walk Among the Tombstones, opened to $12.8 million in September 2014.
Jaume Collet-Serra directed Run All Night for Warner Bros. Also starring Joel Kinnaman, Common and Ed Harris, Run All Night stars Neeson as a hitman who is forced to take on his former boss in order to save his son. Despite an A- CinemaScore, part of the problem could have been that the film skewed female (52 percent), whereas it hoped to appeal heavily to males uninterested in Cinderella. More than 85 percent of ticket buyers were over age of 25.
“That’s what we’ll have to figure out Monday morning, why more men didn’t turn out,” said Warner domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. “Overall, I wish we would have done a little better but we had great exit scores, so I am hoping we will have legs.”
Overseas, Run All Night launched in in 19 countries, or 25 percent of the marketplace, earning $6.6 million for a muted worldwide launch of $17.6 million. The U.K. led with $1.3 million.
Run All Night came in a meek No. 2 domestically, followed by formidable holdover Kingsman: The Secret Service, which grossed $6.2 million from 2,635 locations for a North American cume of $107.4 million. Matthew Vaughn‘s cheeky British spy film took in another $13.7 million internationally for a foreign tally of $169.9 million and world total of $277.3 million for Fox.
Most box office experts show Focus and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel following with $5.8 million and $5.7 million in North America, respectively, but Sony’s estimates have Neill Blomkamp‘s Chappie tying with Focus.
Chappie, now in its second weekend, grossed $13.6 million overseas from 68 markets for a global cume of $56.7 million. From Sony and MRC, the cyborg film is widely considered a disappointment, although Sony insiders point out that its budget was a relatively reasonable $50 million (that doesn’t include marketing).
Will Smith-starrer Focus, from Warner Bros., has now earned $44 million domestically and $57.7 million internationally to jump the $100 million mark, finishing Sunday with $101.7 million in total ticket sales. As with Chappie, Focus is considered a disappointment overall.
Fox Searchlight’s Marigold 2 expanded from 1,500 theaters to 2,022 locations in its second weekend in North America, while it earned another $4.1 million overseas from 17 markets for an early foreign total of $28.9 million. Domestically, it has grossed $18.1 million for a world cume of $48 million.
Fifty Shades of Grey finished the weekend with a global cume of $546.5 million, including $385.1 million internationally, eclipsing Despicable Me ($544 million) to become the No. 10 Universal title of all time, not accounting for inflation.
Radius-TWC’s festival favorite It Follows scared up impressive business in its debut at the specialty box office, grossing $163,453 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $40,863, the best of the weekend. David Robert Mitchell‘s film boasts some of the best reviews in years for a horror title, and made its premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival before making stops in Toronto and Sundance. The story revolves around a group of teenagers pursued by a supernatural entity after having sex.
“We’re looking forward to a robust theatrical expansion filled with dread and mayhem,” said Radius co-president Tom Quinn.
Alex Gibney‘s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief did nicely as HBO Films launched the documentary in three theaters in Los Angeles and New York, grossing roughly $60,000 for a location average of $20,000. The film premieres May 29 on HBO.
One new title bombing at the specialty space was Tom McCarthy‘s indie drama The Cobbler, starring Adam Sandler. Robert E. Johnson‘s REJ Entertainment didn’t report numbers to Rentrak, but insiders say it grossed between $20,000 and $23,000 from 20 theaters. REJ acquired the film out of the Toronto Film Festival for $3.5 million.
The Met: Live in HD‘s Saturday broadcast of Rossini‘s opera La Donna del Lago delivered a nice return, grossing $1.9 million from 900 theaters in North America. An additional 90,000 people saw the movie on 800 screens in numerous markets overseas.
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